Fire officials use drone to survey damage to old Bedford Middle School

Local News

BEDFORD, Va. (WFXR) — While members of the Bedford community continue to mourn the loss of the former middle school, the Bedford Fire Department continues to investigate the scene of the suspected arson.

On Saturday, Jan. 25, officials from the Bedford Fire Department brought a drone to the former middle school so they could build a map of the structure from the ground and from the sky. Authorities say that the pictures taken from the drone for damage assessment will serve both historical and investigative purposes.

“We were out here today collecting more data, more pictures, if you will. The main purpose was for historical reference,” said Curtis Marshall with the Bedford Fire Department. “We also wanted to create a map of the incident so that we can have a 3-D rendering or a 3-D model and just additional images for us historically and in case investigators need that too.”

According to the department, the fire is still an ongoing investigation.

Fire crews were originally dispatched to the old Bedford Middle School just before 3 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23. WFXR News provided continuous coverage of the fire throughout the day.

WFXR News reported at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday that approximately 45 firefighters from four or five different stations were expected to remain on the scene for several more hours despite the fire already being 95 percent contained. Due to the age of the building, officials say that the fire spread quickly and caused heavy damage.

Local organizations and community members brought food and water to the first responders throughout the day to keep their spirits up as they worked to extinguish the fire. However, the loss of this historic building resonated throughout the town and the National D-Day Memorial Foundation due to the legacy of The Bedford Boys, who attended the former Bedford Middle School back when it was a high school.

By 4 p.m. on Thursday, Bedford Police Chief F. Todd Foreman told WFXR News that the fire was intentionally set. Within the hour, Bedford Police Department released surveillance photos of the person suspected in setting the fire.

Fire crews returned to the school early in the morning on Friday, Jan. 24 as pockets of fire rekindled, causing a small fire in the library that was contained by 5:55 a.m., according to a WFXR reporter at the scene.

During a press conference with the Bedford Police Department on Friday afternoon, authorities said they had received nearly 100 tips regarding the person who allegedly started the fire.

Crews confirmed that they had secured the walls of the structure and a K-9 unit from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office was sent inside to search for accelerant. The K-9 unit discovered the presence of an undetermined accelerant, which allowed police to confirm that this is an active arson case.

If you have any information about the fire or the person in the surveillance pictures, please contact Bedford Police Investigator Blackford at (540) 587-6011 or Fire Marshal Investigator George at (434) 566-7905.

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